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Managing and Motivating Millennials

Posted by Andreea Hrab

motivating millennials

The prospect of drastically changing your management style to accommodate the growing number of millennials entering the workforce might seem daunting. But acknowledging that they are and will continue to be a major pool of talent for your company is the first step toward recognizing the importance of adapting, and of effectively welcoming them into your organization.

Millennials (also known as Gen Y)—currently in their late teens, 20s, and early 30s—operate differently from past generations, the Gen Xers, and especially the Baby Boomers. They view the world differently because they were raised with technology: the Internet has been part of most, if not all, of their lives. Also, many of them grew up in an environment of constant praise from their parents, teachers, and friends. They are motivated by different factors than older workers. They see their careers more informally than previous generations did, and they are often seeking to “break in” to a business or industry quickly and with a splash.

These younger employees can alarm some managers, since they may not know how to effectively motivate a generation that views the workplace so differently. Knowing more about how millennials operate and being prepared to make a few changes in your management style will go a long way toward successfully working with them.

Here are five tips to effectively engage millennials as part of your workforce.

1. Capitalize on their desire for new challenges

Glance around you at a coffee shop, and chances are you’ll be able to spot the millennials—they’re the ones texting a friend while at the same time ordering a latte, tweeting about the latest movie, and snapping a pic of their new kicks. They are the masters of multitasking. To them, juggling 10 things at once feels more natural than doing just one thing at a time.

Not only are millennials multitasking prodigies, they also love new challenges. They’re driven to learn about the latest developments and to become the best. Knowing this can be very useful when it comes to managing them in the workplace. Encourage your millennial staff members to learn new things by offering them professional or tech training opportunities. Make them feel welcome to share their ideas and new approaches, and take those ideas seriously in order to nurture their creative side.

2. Give them regular feedback and support

Millennials grew up in a faster-than-fast-paced environment, so they are used to getting immediate results. Most of them also grew up with the adults around them offering support and praise. That’s why, in the workplace, they’ll operate better if they are given regular feedback.

The key is to walk that fine line between micro-managing and being too laissez-faire. Millennials want to know whether they’re doing a good job, and that you’re aware of and appreciate their efforts. Providing real-time feedback is a sure-fire way to let them know that. Waiting until an annual review to let them know how they’re doing is not the way to go. Instead, give them feedback throughout the execution of their projects, to help them feel supported and appreciated.

3. Use social media networks to keep them interested

All millennials have used some form of a social networking, whether it was AOL’s Instant Messenger in the late 90s and early 2000s, or the Facebook and Twitter of now. They’ve never lived without it. It’s what keeps them in touch with friends and family, and abreast of the latest trends and most up-to-date information. So using social media is a basic way to keep them interested. Consider involving them in the development of a social media channel for your brand or company. Not only will they be naturals at it, it will also give them an opportunity to prove themselves by doing something many of your more seasoned employees may not know how to do.

Also think about using social media to develop and communicate ideas within your company. An office intranet that works much like a social media network is a good system for engaging not just millennials, but all of your employees. If you develop a robust intranet system, you can even use it as part of your onboarding process, so millennials can explore and learn about your company the best way they know how.

4. Offer them a good work-life balance

“Work hard. Play hard.” This motto is the cornerstone of the millennials’ approach to their careers. They want to advance their careers and prove themselves in the workplace, but they have other interests as well. They want to spend time with friends and family, play sports or go to the gym, and take classes and outside training courses. Making sure your work policies don’t infringe on their personal time is crucial to keeping millennials happy and productive.

If you can offer them flexibility in their work schedule or allow for telecommuting, that’s another good way to make your company more appealing to millennials. Telecommuting is especially attractive, since it affords them the chance to be outside of the office while using their tech skills to still do their work. And a good work-life balance will benefit everyone in your company, not just the millennials. Happy and balanced people are more loyal and productive employees.

5. Actively listen to them and provide direct guidance

One of the biggest pitfalls of the divide between generations in the workplace is frustration on both sides when it comes to communication. Baby Boomer managers often feel that their direction is not being heeded by the millennials. But managers need to remember that it’s a two-way street. When millennials feel that their managers and superiors don’t listen to them, and that they don’t take them or their ideas seriously, they become unproductive and stagnant in their work. After all, what’s the point of coming up with new ideas if nobody is listening to them?

Listening to millennials and taking their ideas seriously counts for a great deal. Some ideas may seem different or a little out there, but you never know when something truly great will come out of them. The worst thing to do is to stifle their creativity by not taking them seriously. Of course, everything works better when there’s a system, so consider establishing a way for millennials and other employees to share new ideas.  Scheduling impromptu brainstorms with coffee and donuts or asking for ideas on the office intranet are good starting points.

Remember, tweaking your company’s management style to better fit your millennial employees is a business-savvy move. Your bottom line is to have a productive, creative, and efficient workforce, and giving millennials the tools and the feedback they need to succeed will help get you there.

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About Andreea Hrab

Author

Andreea is an experienced HR professional, with a specialized background as HR in IT companies. Her areas of expertise are: recruiting, retention and company promotion. She is experienced in designing and implementing policies, procedures, and motivational programs, in coaching new hired/promoted managers and mentoring HR new employees.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Laurie February, 21, 2014

    I don’t think dividing people into generations and tagging them is the right approach to workforce managing. All people are different, but at the same time our basic needs with regards to work remain the same – we want to be respected and recognized; we want to feel important and do meaningful things; we want to enjoy the things we do and we want other people appreciate our job. So if people of different generations aren’t that different in their needs, why would they need a different approach?

  • Ann Valenski February, 22, 2014

    It looks to me that the most important thing about managing Millennials is to give enough recognition when it’s due, because people of this generation aren’t satisfied with only a paycheck – they want more! Millennials want to be challenged, they want a chance to develop, to grow; they don’t want to stay in a stagnant atmosphere and have high requirements to the place where they work. Is that bad? No, because it drives you, as a manager and the company as a whole to constant development.

  • Tracy Harris February, 24, 2014

    I’m the adherent of an approach that different managing styles must be applied to people of different age, but not people of different generations. Because Millennials are people in their twenties and thirties, and as most people of this age they are ambitious, they want to prove their worth and become a valuable part of their company. Didn’t Baby Boomers have the same needs at that age? I think they did.

  • Crystal Collier February, 24, 2014

    Time is passing, world is changing and society is changing. There’s no doubt that new generations are motivated by different things and must be managed in a different way. I can’t disagree that people of different age must be approached in a different way, but we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that the differences between generations exist and they are huge! We must take it into account.

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